The Stieglitz Group was an essential number of photographers who pioneered then promoted the pictorial style of photography. (Check out my article on pictorialism here!) Through the efforts of these photographers, photography was ultimately elevated and appreciated culturally to an art form. Through their new techniques and relentless quest to get their images viewed more often by the public, they were able to change the perception of photography as something one does for a personal album into something that also includes purchasing and … [Read more...] about History of Photography: The Stieglitz Group
Camera Work In 1902 Stieglitz, along with Joseph T. Kelley launched Camera Work, a quarterly publication that supported the ideals of the Photo-Secession movement with the purpose of to "loosely hold together those Americans devoted to pictorial photography in their endeavor to compel its recognition, not as a handmaiden of art, but as a distinctive medium of individual expression." Photo-Secession encompassed pictorialism, which holds that the manipulation of an image to create the photographer's subjective perspective was more important than … [Read more...] about History of Photography: The Photo-Secession Movement
In the late 1800's photography was still basically like a baby giraffe learning how to get up and walk for the first time. Photography didn't really know what it was, processes were still being invented and refined and there was still great debate between it's uses for amateurs, scientists/engineers, and artists. More clubs and associations began popping up, including the founding of the Professional Photographers of America and the establishment of photography degrees at schools such as the Chicago College of Photography. These all aimed to … [Read more...] about History of Photography: What is Pictorialism?
Photography moves from wet plates to dry There's no denying that the wet plate process was not easy. It took considerable time, planning, effort, money, supplies, and proper logistics to execute and to top it off, the chemicals and fumes from the alcohols and ethers were health hazards. In 1860, a French scientist called Taupenot produced the first ever collodion dry plates. Since they didn't require the whole wet plate prepping process, photographers were attracted to them, however, their flaws were quickly discovered in that these new … [Read more...] about History of Photography: Advances in Technology for Negatives
In the early life of photography, cameras (and all the gear that came with them) were large, heavy, and cumbersome. The wet plate processes, the only one available, required the photographer (or an assistant) to do the development. This added considerably to the time, expense, and skill level required to make a "simple" photograph. In 1888 George Eastman invented roll film, then brought forth the Kodak camera and changed the entire face of photography forever. Or at least until they invented digital capture, which once again, changed … [Read more...] about History of Photography: Introduction of Kodak
As long as photography remained chained to any sort of wet plate process, photographers found themselves encumbered by massive hardships in order to "take the show on the road". However, as transportation networks grew, architectural technology advanced, and people began exploring the world more, there was increasing demand for images of new lands and architectural feats. Three types of travel photography began to emerge: amateur (where people took photos solely for their personal memories), official (where government entities hired … [Read more...] about History of Photography: Mobile Studios
As a woman, I naturally celebrate a little when I look back in the history of photography and see other women who have made significant contributions to my craft. In a field that perceptually (even to this day) seems to be dominated by males, it's nice to remember that women also had hands in this industry from its early stages. Julia Margaret Cameron is one of those women. Cameron was a British woman living in the British Colonial system in India in the mid-1800's. She was a privileged woman, which allowed her to … [Read more...] about History of Photography: Julia Margaret Cameron
The battle for photography's place in the fine art world is a road that is long and seemingly never ending at times, even today. In the 1800's especially, photography struggled for a place at the table and one man, in particular, pushed the envelope: Oscar Gustave Rejlander. During the Victorian Era, photographic standards of art were mostly based on comparisons to painting. In other words, the photo had to look real, but not too real. Many photographers chose to use sub standard lenses, smudge the lenses or plates, and even introduce camera … [Read more...] about History of Photography: Oscar Rejlander
Is photography art? This seemingly simple question is anything but. Since the earliest days of photography, critics and photographers themselves have questioned if it's purely a mechanical, commercial process or one that is intrinsically woven as another thread into the totality of the arts. In the 1850's, the patents on photography held by William Henry Fox Talbot were relaxed. The photography industry saw an influx of professionals seeking to meet the needs of an ever growing public's demand for photos and portraits. These professionals … [Read more...] about History of Photography: Is Photography Art?
It's odd to think of war as a way for photographers to hone their skills. In the Spring of 1861 when the American Civil War broke out, it presented photographers with just such an opportunity. Initially, people thought the war would be won quickly (particularly those in the North.) Photographers figured they could make images of heroic soldiers and easily sell them to collectors and the media to mark the historic occasion. As we now know, the American Civil War was anything but swift and bloodless. It incurred over 620,000 deaths, making it … [Read more...] about History of Photography: Brady, Gardner, and The Civil War
As photography evolved, one theme remained fairly constant in the public's opinion: seeing is believing. People generally regarded photographic prints as evidence of truth and reality. Steadily becoming more mobile, photographers tended to photograph scenes of current events wide, because as much visual information as could be jammed into a photo, the better the photo was considered. A tight crop didn't give the viewer nearly as much information to digest as a wide shot. It was believed there was more truth and accuracy in wider shots than … [Read more...] about History of Photography: Photos as Propaganda
Between the 1850's and 1880's two men, Eadweard Muybridge and Etienne-Jules Marey both were using photography to further the study of locomotion (or movement) of humans and animals. However, they both had different approaches and motives. The Running Horse Muybridge was commissioned by the builder of the Central Pacific Railroad, Leland Stanford, to provide proof that when a horse galloped, there is a point at which it has all four feet off the ground. The quest was difficult. Initial use of a wet plate was too slow for to get a sharp … [Read more...] about History of Photography: Muybridge and Marey
Stereostopic photography is yet another blip in the history of photography where the photograph was still working to find its' true identity. It's based on binocular vision, which is the action of the brain associating two slightly different images (each one through a separate eye) as one image which in turn creates an effect of depth. Given it's introduction in the early 1800's, you can imagine the novelty of this early "virtual reality" that people experienced! We owe the beginning of stereoscopic photography to a man by the name of Sir … [Read more...] about History of Photography: Stereoscopic Photography
In today's world, it's hard to wrap our heads around a time when retouching and enlarging photos wasn't not only accepted, but expected! However, as photography was in its infancy, and was still bopping around finding its real place in the the world, retouching especially, was not always met with open arms. While hand painting a print was widely accepted, retouching the negative, or retouching the print in a way that would alter a person's appearance (minimizing characteristics on the body, blemishes, etc.) was often deemed fraudulent. Add that … [Read more...] about History of Photography: Retouching & Enlarging Makes Waves
I'm filling in for Lisa Robinson's History of Photography column this week. I'm jumping forward in time to highlight groundbreaking work in fashion photography by Lillian Bassman. She was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 15, 1917, a hundred years ago. She was an independent, unconventional woman with an eclectic background living a bohemian lifestyle. She worked as a textile designer, became a fashion illustrator then moved on to be an assistant to the legendary art director of Harper's Bazaar magazine. Manipulations Lillian worked … [Read more...] about History of Photography: Lillian Bassman, Fashion & Commercial Photographer